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Celtics-Hornets Takeaways

 

This May Explain Recent Defensive Problems

Nine days ago, Brendan wrote about the Celtics’ playoff rotation, surmising it would come down to this crew:

Starters:

  • Rajon Rondo
  • Ray Allen
  • Paul Pierce
  • Kevin Garnett
  • Shaquille O’Neal

Bench:

  • Glen Davis
  • Jeff Green
  • Nenad Krstic
  • Delonte West

If last night is any indication, Brendan surmised right. Against the Hornets, in something close to a must-win game, Doc Rivers locked down that exact rotation, save the injured Shaquille O’Neal.

Even though it was the second half of a back-to-back, or SEGABABA, in CH parlance, Rivers ran Ray Allen out there for 44 minutes, Kevin Garnett for 36 and Paul Pierce for 35.

Could this be the path forward for the Celtics over the last 14 games of the regular season?

Full speed ahead?

There are three directives over this final stretch of play.

1. Secure optimal playoff seeding.

2. Lock down playoff rotations and player (Green, West, Krstic) usage for the playoffs.

3. Get everyone as rested and healthy as possible (see also: Rondo, pinkie)

As much as we’ve talked about the competing priorities of health and seeding all year, weirdly, they’ve not been significant concerns until recently. The Celtics spent most of the season behind the Spurs and ahead of everyone else. But now, slumping for reasons much-discussed but not entirely clear, Boston has to decide how best to position itself going forward.

Over the next week, the Celtics play Monday (@Knicks), Wednesday (Grizzlies), Friday (Bobcats), Sunday (@T-Wolves). The week after, there are two back-to-backs on the schedule but these next four could/should all go in the win column.

Does it make sense to stick primarily to a playoff rotation and really go after these next four games? You could, in theory, do just that while downshifting certain starters’ minutes.

For example, take Rondo. West has played well, and still needs as many minutes as he can get before the playoffs, not just for continuity but conditioning. It doesn’t feel like it because we’ve been talking about him all year, but West has still only played 11 games since November. If his play can keep Rondo under 30 minutes a night, does it make sense to lean more heavily on him?

Maybe. Maybe not. From Jackie MacMullan’s piece on ESPN Boston last night:

West checked out with 9 points (on 4-of-5 shooting), 5 assists and 1 rebound in 19 minutes, but confessed it will be a while before he’s feeling physically healed.

“I’m a left-handed player and I like to spring off my right leg,’’ West explained, “but I can’t get the lift I want just yet. And I’m also running around with a brace on my right arm.

“I tried to jump and dunk, but then I see [Emeka] Okafur and I start getting timid about hitting the ground.’’

West said his ankle is “getting stronger every day,’’ and he’s hopeful the spring in his jump will return before the year is out.

And then there’s Green. In his New Orleans game preview, Hayes made the point that Green’s recent offensive outbursts have been overshadowed by the recent losses. His last three games:

But look at those moderate minute-totals. There’s no reason why he can’t come off the bench, but play starters minutes, while giving Pierce and Garnett extra pine time.

After all, there’s still much to figure out with Green and little time to do it. From Peter May on Friday:

“I’m still learning how best to use him,” Rivers said before his team headed to Texas for a Friday night meeting with the Houston Rockets. “He can do so many different things in so many different ways.”

Rivers said he had never had someone like Green, especially as a weapon coming off the bench. He can score, as he showed Wednesday when he had a 13-point quarter, a 17-point half and was on course to become the first Celtics reserve in the new Big Three era to go for 30 points. (Leon Powe did it near the end of the 2008-09 season, but he did so as a starter.)

Then, in the second half, Green took two shots. He finished with 19 points. There’s a Garnett-ian, unselfish streak in Green, what Rivers calls “his passive-aggressive thing.” The coach said he’s working on triggering the aggressive part of Green as he experiments with how to use the 6-foot-9 forward.

So, there’s an idea. Tighten up the bench for the next week, up the minutes for Green and West and go win these four games. Troy Murphy, Carlos Arroyo, Sasha Pavlovic and co. can stay on the bench unless fouls/spot situations make it absolutely necessary to play them. Then the Celtics can reassess things going into the following week.

Thoughts?

  • derrick

    Doc needs to play the bench more and give the BIG 4 more rest…Ray Allen does not need to play 44 mins when you have other guards on the team thats been producing lately ie Arroyo he like his game and he can give Rondo a break also….Trust me they will need Troy cause I dont see JO producing when he comes back.

  • Jeremy

    Considering how badly we play against younger teams, I actually fear the next 4 games. The Grizzlies especially are very troublesome.

    • urbeltic

      Totally agree with the young gun trouble theory. See Phili.

      Unfortunately they don't have the luxury this year to dick around in these next 15 or so games, they need to put the peddle to the meddle and play that 8 man rotation every night. There has been too much change in the roster to try and rest guys, its more important to have 8 guys clicking. And if they start clanging balls short & lose games, so what….just get your plays down and have 8 playoff ready dudes clicking. And if they win, take the 1st seed and hope that everybody can shake the fatigue off in round one when the games spread out a bit ….there will be plenty of time to rest for the old guys next year when the season is locked out anyway. These guys are going to be spent in the finals no matter how many minutes Doc trys to save now.

      • youbet

        what is a "peddle to the meddle?"

        • Urbeltic

          Street slang for pedal to the metal.

  • celtic

    Where is Wafer in this bench lineup? He has been playing well until the injury.

    • kricky

      MORE cowbell !! (I mean Wafer).

  • kricky

    Well, I don't think they've really struggled because of the Bench but because the way the tired starters have played.

    So to your suggestion I'd also add Arroyo to the mix for big minutes in the next 4 games. DWest can also play the 2, which will give Ray a blow. He can't be going 40+ out there too often.

    Besides, Arroyo has been a quick study and he does pretty well running the offense.

    • Brian B

      I agree- Arroyo also gives another option to limit Rondo's minutes while he gets healthier, and playing him 10 minutes a game would keep him game ready if anyone falters before June.

  • steveb

    I’ve been wondering why Green hasn’t gotten more minutes. Especially when he’s playing well. If he’s getting it done out there let him stay on the floor. I think when Shaq comes back and using Murphy with caution, the starters minutes can be kept down. West and Green are so versatile they can cover four positions to give guys rest. Let’s go get a winning streak going.

  • Chris

    Agree 100%, Ryan. Davis, Green and West should all be logging 30+ minutes over this stretch to experiment with combinations and get these guys acclimated. This is the playoff rotation. Get Shaq some minutes in the final 10 games to get his conditioning right, and play Sasha, Murph and the Greatest Reggaetone-er of All Time (the GRATer) in the final week to get everyone rested and I honestly think this is the team to beat.

    • Jose

      Not sure if I agree that Davis should be logging in long minutes. Shouldn't we be concerned that his tendon will act up again? He's surely already playing in pain and I'd hate for him to aggravate that again.

  • dtla la

    Any speculation about the additional three we'll keep for the 12-man playoff roster?

    Arroyo will be one, I think. Will J. O'Neal be one???

    • dtla la

      Wafer
      Arroyo
      Sasha/Murphy. I can't decide.

      No J O'N.

  • MikeD

    Jackie MacMullen wrote a nice piece on Rondo, http://sports.espn.go.com/boston/nba/columns/stor… and he opens up a bit about Perk. I think that has been affecting him more than people may realize

  • Ducksawce

    Wafer and JO will definitely be part of the playoff rotation. I think they'll get some run during the last few games of the regular season, and the 1st round of the playoffs.

    • MikeD

      I really doubt we will see either of them actually. Wafer probably won't even make the roster, JO would probably only be used in certain game situations and when bigs get in foul trouble, and that would if he gets healthy which is a big if. Wafer did a nice job this season but Doc has already said he will have a 9 man playoff rotation. When you consider Delonte, Baby, Green and Kristic, how would you find minutes for Wafer?

      • jade

        I wonder why he'd stick to a 9-man rotation when he has more serviceable players than that.

  • john schaffer

    J O needs to be right where he is now at home , he collected 6 million dollars for this year and the ball boys played more than he did .when he did play he fouled out ,, i was a bigger waste of money shan Rasheed

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